Beatitudes for a Wounded World


TUVAYHUN - Beatitudes for a Wounded World is a moving and innovative 80-minute work with a message of inclusion, trust, kindness, compassion, humanity, and mutual respect. The work is based on the beatitudes. As part of its message to embrace our differences, this is a hybrid work with elements from classical, jazz, and world music.


Created by:

Charles Anthony Silvestri (Words)

Kim André Arnesen (Music)

Michelle Oesterle (Commissioner, creative process & idea development)



Our world is wounded. All around us we see the cracks: the effects of environmental crisis, mass migrations, global pandemic, political polarization, growing income inequality, the rise of authoritarian regimes, unprecedented social change, and reticence or resignation on the part of many to do anything about any of it. And yet, our world is also a place of wondrous beauty, a beauty that surrounds us if we have eyes to see it. More than ever we need messages of hope and unity, messages that remind us of what we already know—that the world is beautiful, that people are beautiful, and if we come together, respect one another, bless one another, and open our hearts to be blessed in return—we might heal the despair, and repair the fractures that are threatening our fragile world.

In “TUVAYHUN—Beatitudes for a Wounded World” we seek to address this fragility, and the part we are called to play in healing it. “TUVAYHUN” in Aramaic is the first word in each of the Beatitudes, “Blessed…” In the Sermon on the Mount from the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus likely spoke this exact word as he pointed out those who were especially blessed in the eyes of God; but his was not a predictable list. He did not say, “Blessed are the big donors” or “Blessed are
the Church leadership” or “Blessed are those who pray the loudest.” Instead, he shocked his listeners by blessing not those who have joy, but those who mourn; not the righteous, but those who are poor in spirit; not the powerful, but the peacemakers, and the meek. He blessed the sinners, the broken, the marginalized.

TUVAYHUN responds to each of Jesus’ blessings as if to say, “Yes, and…” These new texts illustrate how that blessing applies in the real world. It seems as though Jesus’ words two millennia ago still resonate, and the types of people he sought to comfort with his blessings are still in need of that blessing, and the societal shortcomings he drew attention to then are still challenging us today.

The music of TUVAYHUN takes us on a journey through deep emotions and deeply human situations. The music moves in and out, occupying the liminal space between ancient and modern, sacred and profane. We move from semi-liturgical chant to lively folk dance, from rich orchestral layers to stark solos, from the familiar to the exotic, and back again. The music illuminates the many different peoples and experiences the texts evoke, and serves in sonic form as a reminder of the universal and enduring message of the Beatitudes.

One might think that each of the eight verses in the Beatitudes concerns a different group of people: the poor in spirit, the meek, the peacemakers, the merciful. However, these are not eight different groups of people, but instead are eight moral qualities that all of us can possess. We are all in need of these blessings, and we are all called to act as the agents of blessing.

“TUVAYHUN—Beatitudes for a Wounded World” was born from a desire to shine new light on those whom Jesus blessed so long ago, for they are still with us. The alternating text and music styles evoke the timelessness of this message of hope and the need for blessing. The liturgical context of blessing is present in the solemnity of chimes and gongs, in the chanted Aramaic text, in patterns of repetition. The response movements transport us from the ancient to the
contemporary world. We visit with refugees. We hear a mother’s lullaby. We hear the voice of a child who has died. We pass from a folk dance to an anthem of universal human needs and dignity, interspersed with messages of hope and blessings. The work ends with an exhortation for all of us to let our light shine and be a blessing to others. Our goal was to bring together images and music from different cultures, to encourage us to see ourselves in the other, to reach out our hands in blessing; for by blessing others, we ourselves are blessed. To hear this message sung in the voices of children makes it all the more convicting.

All of us involved in the creation of this work and recording felt that blessing, from the initial idea developed in collaboration with the commissioner Michelle Oesterle and the Manhattan Girls Chorus, during the writing and composition process, to the premiere performance, through subsequent performances, and now through the recording process—all of us touched by this work have come away with a renewed sense of awareness of the other, and purposeful spirit moving forward. It is our hope that upon listening, you too can be lifted up, blessed, and inspired to be a blessing to someone
else in need.

Brief abstract for media

Our world is wounded. All around us we see the cracks. And yet the world is beautiful and blessed in so many
ways. This work begins from the Beatitudes and responds with new poetry that sheds light on who among us might be in need of blessing. These texts, ancient and new, are woven into a colorful tapestry of music inspired by a variety of traditions, highlighting the
universality of the human experience. TUVAYHUN creates an opportunity for performers and listeners alike to inspire and be inspired, to be blessed, and be a blessing.


1. The Poor in Spirit

Too-vay-hoon le mes-ki-ne b’rooch, de - ð eel-hoon-ee mal-koo-tho dash-ma-yo.

(Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.)

2. I Am Poor

I am poor, yes;

I am poor in spirit.

In despair I weep for the wounded world I see,

A world of poverty, of misery,

Of loneliness profound;

A world of hate, of sad division,

And of shocking cruelty,

Where trolls well-fed and liars bold

Erode our sense of shared humanity,

Setting sister against brother,

Neighbor against neighbor, Race
against race, Faith against faith,

Nation against nation.

How long must we wait, O Lord? How long?

When will Your promised Kingdom come?

How can one NOT be poor in spirit

When lies become truth,

And truth lies, rejected?

When saints are silenced

And villains grow mighty?

While mumbling leaders dither and look away?

Why must we wait for the coming of the Kingdom,

My sisters and my brothers?

Why must we wait, O Lord?

When one is poor in Spirit,

One is poor indeed.


3. The Merciful

Too-vay-hoon lam-rach-mo-ne, da-ˁlay-hoon neh-woon rach-me.

(Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.)

4. Forty Days and Forty Nights

Forty days and forty nights

The bombs rained down.

School, road, marketplace,

The world we knew

Now only dust and blood.

Who will tend the orchard, with harvest coming on?

Who will greet the sunrise on the hill?

Will we ever taste again the spices of our home?

Who can know it if we ever will?

Forty days and forty nights

We fled, frightened;

Desert, mountain, stormy sea…

Silent strangers

Passing by your door.

Will we be forgotten as we journey far from home?

Will we find a safer place to stay?

Will new neighbors welcome us as brothers and as friends?

Or will they scoff and send us on our way?

Forty days and forty nights

We’ve settled now,

Broken, worn out, hopeful.

All was lost,

Except our hope.

Forty days and forty nights

The bombs rained down;

The world we left behind,

the world we knew

Now just a memory.

May we sit and share with you the story of our journey,

And of our hope, and hardships overcome?

May we help you tend your orchard, when harvest’s coming on?

May we share with you the spices of our home?


5. The Peacemakers

Too-vay-hoon l’ov-day shlo-mo dav-naw da-lo-ho neth-qe -roon.

(Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.)

6. What is Peace?

Peace is not a silent state

That comes upon us from within—

Serene, detached, oblivious.

Peace is not a force like rain

That comes, unbidden, from above—

Gentle, enfolding, natural.


Peace is fire! Yes, peace is fire!

And peace is passion!

Peace requires a strength of will,

A certain courage, a heart of iron,

A force abiding to fulfill.


Peace is not a foregone fate;

For peace, like war, must be waged—

Mindfully, deliberately,

With arms ever ready,

And eyes wide open.


7. The Meek

Too-vay-hoon le mak-ki-khe de - he-noon nir-thoon lar-ˁoh.

(Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.)

8. Rachel’s Song

Oh Mama, I don’t want to go to sleep!

So many things I want to do,

So many things I want to see,

I couldn’t ever go to sleep!

Dear Mama, will you sing to me?

Go to sleep, my precious child,

And lay aside your worries.

Tomorrow is another day

To grow and learn, and love and play.

Tomorrow, all the world shall be

Just as it was today, you’ll see.


Oh Mama, I don’t want to go to sleep!

I want to jump! I want to dance!

I want to sing the whole night through!

I couldn’t think of sleep at all.

Dear Mama, May I sing with you?


Go to sleep, my restless one,

And still your stirring spirit

The silent stars shall dance tonight

And greet the sun in morning light.

Tomorrow all the world shall leap;

But only if you go to sleep!


(I pray to God who dwells above

To watch you closely as you sleep,

And grant you all the joys you seek.

The world is darker than you know.)


Tomorrow morning, when you wake,

The world will be made new again;

But you will be a little taller,

And the big, wide world just a little smaller.

Tomorrow the world is yours to keep;

But tonight, my darling, precious

child, Tonight, my sweet one, go to sleep!


9. The Pure in Heart

lay-len da ð -khen b’leb-hoon de -he-noon nech-zoon la’lo-ho.

(Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.)

10. The Face of God

But I wonder...

Will the God I see
Look at all like me?

For we have many names, many faces,
Different mothers, different races.
How can we, who are so many,
Have a God resembling any of us?
I wonder...

And when I smile at the face of God,
Will God be smiling back at me?
Am I worthy of that smile? Are we?
We need not wonder...

For God has many hands--our hands.
And God has many hearts--our hearts.
And when we look upon each other's faces
We see the face of God.


11. I Hope

(Instrumental with narration written and spoken by the singers.)


12. Those Who Mourn

Too-vay-hoon la-vi-le, de -he-noon neth-bay-oon

(Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.)

13. Song for a Lily

Leaving you behind

Is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Leaving you behind,

You who were my everything.

Keep the memory of me,

And may my memory be a blessing—

The songs, smiles, and laughter—

Every little thing that made you love me.

Love is powerful

In life as well as death;

For even as I die,

Eternal is my love for you.

Leaving you behind

Only makes our bonding stronger,

Vaster, longer,

Every day, in every way.


14. Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness

Too-vay-hoon lay-len de -khaf-ninwaṣ-henle -khi-noo-tha, de he-non nes-be -ˁoon.

(Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.)

15. Song for Justice

In all that we are,

It is better by far

To follow our star,

And sing out our truth.

When things can’t get worse,

We hunger and thirst

For the last to be first;

And so we sing out our truth.

We sing for the poor.

We sing for the weak.

We sing for the helpless,

The hopeless, the meek.

We sing out the truth

Against hunger and hate.

We sing out for justice

Before it’s too late!

And in all that we do

For these, and for you,

The whole dark night through

We’re gonna sing out our truth!


16. Those Who Are Persecuted For Righteousness Sake

Too-vay-hoon lay-len deth-re - ð ef, met-tool ki-noo-tho de - ð il-hoon-ee
mal-khu-tho dash-ma-yo.

(Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.)


17. Hold My Hand

Brothers and sisters, gather round,
And hear the words we say,
For the world can be a better place
If we hold hands today.

Hold my hand and stand with me,
And face the tide together;
And we will change the world today,
Tomorrow, and forever.

Hold my hand against injustice;
Hold my hand and stand with me.
Hold my hand against division;
Just take my hand and see.

Hold my hand to conquer hatred;
Hold my hand and stand with me.
The troubles of the world will melt,
And we will blessed be.


18. You are the Light

You are the Light of the world;
Let your light will shine before others.

While you have the Light,

believe in the Light,

So that you may become children

of Light.

You are the Light of the world;
Your light will shine before others.

I am the Light of the world;

My Light will shine before others.

We are the Light of the world;
Our Light will shine before others.

We are the Light of the world...
(Based on Matthew 5:14, John 12:36, Philippians 2:15)


Words © copyright 2018 by Charles Anthony Silvestri


Solo child soprano

Solo alto

Solo baritone (as Jesus)

SATB or SSAA choir divisi




Percussion (2 players)

Strings: 5-4-3-3-2 (recommended)


The instruments are chosen to create a distinctive soundscape and hybrid musical idiom by combining ancient world instruments with modern, western instruments. A combination of different compositional styles, performance techniques, and improvisation, contributes to a work that is genre dissolving and where different cultures and traditions

The flute and cimbalom parts require improvisational skills, preferably by a musician with jazz and/or world music experience. If no cimbalom is available, it is possible to use a sampled cimbalom played on a keyboard. A guitarist may also play the cimbalom part, but it would require doing adjustments to the part to make it idiomatic for the instrument. If a guitar is being used, it should preferably be a guitar with world/folk music quality.

The flutist may play any kind of (chromatic) flute, but preferably a flute with a world/folk music quality. A treble recorder may also be used. Based on the chosen flutes, the performer may play the parts in any desired octave throughout the work.

If Tibetan singing bowls aren’t available, finger cymbals or other bells might be used.

As a minimum, two cellos are required due to solo and divisi passages although a larger number of strings are recommended.

The child soprano part is written with singers between 13-18 years of age in mind but may be performed by a young adult. This part may also be performed by various young singers throughout the work, especially if the work is performed by a children’s chorus. The alto part may be either a classical or jazz singer. The baritone part may be either a classical singer or a singer with experience and knowledge about traditional Middle Eastern singing. The part may be improvised in a traditional Middle Eastern style.


Due to the nature of the work with instruments with big dynamic differences, amplification (sound reinforcement) may be used for balance control. Depending on the choice of soloists, these might need amplification too. The decision about how to use sound reinforcement depends on many factors: Size of space, reverb, audience size, distance from the musicians, etc. For the thunder sheet, amplification makes it possible to add a large hall reverb to it as an effect. The engineer should use the score to make sure that solo passages are being brought out, etc.


In this movement, the singers speak a self-written short prayer or hope for the world and our future, preferably with each one in a different language. See further specifications in the score.


80 minutes